Thessaloniki food: culinary capital and food discovery tour

Thessaloniki central food market

Thessaloniki food tour and the Central Market

 

Thessaloniki food: culinary capital and food discovery tour

The city of Thessaloniki is known throughout Greece as the culinary capital due primarily to both Western and Eastern influences from the various cultures and people’s that have made this cosmopolitan city a food forward city that treasures and showcases the best of local cuisine, agricultural products and food finished products in the country.

I was excited to find out if it really lived up to all the hype of being the foodie capital of Greece and tasting some of the delicious food that our group will discover and eat along the way. Thessaloniki is celebrated for its many mezedes, or casual eateries around the city. Most featured different takes on local specialties of savory pies, kabobs or souvlaki, grilled fish like sardines, kalamaria gemista (squid stuffed with feta), melitzanosalata (smoked eggplant and walnut tapenade) and  bougatsa, a rich phyllo pastry filled with cheese, meat, or sweet custard and all the sweet pastry shops offering honey drip goodness of baklava in so many varieties like this display below.

 

Specialty pastries include Thessaloniki baklava

Specialty pastries include Thessaloniki baklava

 

Central Market tour

I’m on a Thessaloniki food tour of the local markets and specialty purveyors sponsored with the Thessaloniki tourist board where we start things off quickly with a tour of the central food market also known as the Kapani market located just off Aristotele Square and Venizelou street. Our guide points out that this market is really a local market that sells a variety of meats, seafood and staples for the regular shoppers. Along with staples, the market also sells many of the specialized products and finished goods locally made from the region and are very popular with locals and tourists alike. We stop by a few of the specialty vendors on the tour and try some of their delicious foods including:  A vendor that offers local a popular ring bread called a Koulouris with a yogurt-like drink called Ayran that is a very popular drink and staple for all meals. The drink is an acquired taste like a typical cold yogurt but more in a thin watery consistency and salty – it’s definitely an acquired taste.

 Here are a few more photo highlights of Central Market:

 

 

Spice vendor at the Thessaloniki Central Market

Spice vendor at the Thessaloniki Central Market

 

 

 

Meat vendor at the Thessaloniki Central Market

Meat vendor at the Thessaloniki Central Market

 

The market area is expansive with many areas designated for fish, meats and specialty purveyors. We tour the main artery and some of the smaller and busy alleys with stops along the way to some of the specialty purveyors. We sample the many varieties of delicious olives from an olive vendor and then enter a sweet shop that offers all the sweet candies and sweets like Halva and the sweet gooey Turkish delight version of fruit jellies that are also very popular in Thessaloniki. Of course we also had to try a variety of flavored ouzo or tsipouro at a the local ouzeris in the marketplace and I’m surprised by the many flavors offered outside of the traditional licorice inspired liquor.

 

 

 

Thessaloniki Central Market in black and white

Thessaloniki Central Market in black and white

 

 

A fruit vendor at the Thessaloniki Central Market

A fruit vendor at the Thessaloniki Central Market

 

We walk through an area with many meat stalls and cured meat vendors displaying delicious looking home-made sausages and cured meats for sale. I’m so tempted in taking some home, but decide not to since prepared meats are typically restricted from import to the US. Fortunately, I did get to taste many of these specialty cured meats while visiting the many cafes and take out places that serve mezedes, – appetizers that are typically offered with the local ouzo liquors.

 

Cured meats and sausage for sale at the Thessaloniki Central Market

Cured meats and sausage for sale at the Thessaloniki Central Market

The Modiano Market

 

Modiano Market hall is also a popular shopping market located in an ornate but run down building bounded by Aristotelous, Ermou, Vasileos Irakleiou, and Komninon Streets. Filled with authentic seafood and meat stalls, the market smells of fresh caught Aegean delicacies and fish, local meat and finished products, fresh produce and delicious pastry shops that are frequented for their famous Spanikopita and feta cheese pies.

 

Fish vendor at Thessaloniki Modiano Market

Fish vendor at Thessaloniki Modiano Market

 

 

 

A pastry vendor at the Thessaloniki Modiano market

A pastry vendor at the Thessaloniki Modiano market

 

 

A meat vendor at the Thessaloniki Modiano market

A meat vendor at the Thessaloniki Modiano market

 

Thessaloniki Kapani Market

 

Colorful markets of Thessaloniki

Colorful markets of Thessaloniki

 

The carpenter and herb areas around Central market are very colorful and filled with specialty shops and local craftsmen making a variety of basketry and furniture from the region.

 

Chairs and woven products produced locally in Thessaloniki region

Chairs and woven products produced locally in Thessaloniki region

 

 

 

Dried flowers and herbs for sale at a specialty market in Thessaloniki

Dried flowers and herbs for sale at a specialty market in Thessaloniki

 

Greeks are cheese lovers and you can see it in many of the mezedes ( Greek appetizers) and entrees in the local dishes served throughout the cafes and bars in Thessaloniki. There are many varieties to choose from especially the most well-known, feta. This salty cheese made from goat’s milk is aged and stored in barrels that are filled with brine for a few months or so. Feta is celebrated in the many casseroles, fried pastries and of course Greek Salads that are a classic dish served as an appetizer dish.  Other popular local cheese made and sold in the various cheese and deli shops include Manouri which is a cream cheese typically used for pastries like spanakopita and Kasseri cheese which is a medium yellow cheese aged for about four months before storing. Below, our guide lets us sample some of the local Mozzarella type of cheese along with local specialties,  dolmas and assorted fried cheese breads.

 

Sampling a variety of Greek cheese and snack foods

Sampling a variety of Greek cheese and snack foods

 

At the same deli shop, we sampled the owners local version of a Thessaloniki bean stew (for some reason called ‘Tanomenos tsorbas’ which was perfect for the very cool morning we were touring around the city in – it’s definitely the perfect winter seasonal soup for the area with every cook creating their own spin from recipes passed down from the generations of families making this traditional soup.

 

A display of local Thessaloniki specialty foods

A display of local Thessaloniki specialty foods

 

Souvlaki galore

 

A must do sandwich to try in the city, Thessaloniki boasts a plethora of souvlaki (a traditional pork or lamb sandwich) take out  or fast food style eateries all over the city with inexpensive food. There are too many to choose from in the city, but if you want to look for the best souvlaki stands in the city you might want to ask a local since everyone has their own favorites.  Typically served with large fries, an order also comes with lettuce, tomato and onions and usually with some tzatziki (a greek yogurt sauce)

 

Thessaloniki souvlaki take out

Thessaloniki souvlaki take out

 

Sweet Thessaloniki pastries

 

 

The delicious baklava at Elenidis pastry shop

The delicious baklava at Elenidis pastry shop

 

Greek pastries are a favorite pastime for Thessaloniki locales with a perpetual sweet tooth. You can easily get into the act by visiting any of the popular pastry shops that feature yummy and super sweet specialties like trigona which is a syrup-soaked baklava stuffed with cream – oh so good. You can try these handmade sweets at Ellinikon pastry shop

 

Sampling baklava at Elenidis pastry shop in Thessaloniki

Sampling baklava at Ellinikon pastry shop in Thessaloniki

 

 

Foods you must try in Thessaloniki now

So you want to live like a local and eat the same amazing food they enjoy every day? Make sure that you try some of these specialty foods and street food below and you will really love the food here.

 

1) Try the street food and enjoy a nice Gyro or Souvlaki from the many take out places around the city.

2) The coffee culture is very popular in Thessaloniki so enjoy the morning with a nice strong Greek coffee and a plate of bougatsa  – the traditional Greek pie filled with cheese, custard, minced meat or spinach.

3) You must visit some of the café bars for mezedes and try the local ouzo or tsipouro at a the local ouzeris around the city, preferably along the waterfront area of the city.

4) Need to run and pick up something to go, do as the locals and grab the popular ring bread, Koulouris with a yogurt-like drink called Ayran

5) In the mood for a sweet pastry, drop into any of the sweet dessert shops and order a trigona which is a syrup-soaked baklava stuffed with cream – it’s so good

6) Enjoy a late evening in a Greek Bouzoukia or local club which is a very popular place to enjoy the nightlife and see the locals enjoy an evening out. Check out how locals enjoy a club and what a Bouzoukia is like here.

7) There are so many popular Greek Tavernas worth trying out in the center of town, take a look at some of these popular tavernas in Thessaloniki.

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Not only is Thessaloniki a wonderful city for food focused delights and experiences,  it is also a city filled with amazing historical landmarks and Unesco World Heritage sites. You can preview some of these stunning landmarks and monuments in my recent post giving a first impression of the city here.

 

Thanks so much for checking out my post on the Thessaloniki food: culinary capital and food discovery tour. I hope you enjoyed the tour and if so, please do share it with any of the social media buttons below and on the side, thank you. Thanks so much for the food tour sponsored by the Thessaloniki Tourism board, all opinions and thoughts are my own and these markets and specialty purveyors are definitely worth a visit when you come to this city.

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23 Responses to Thessaloniki food: culinary capital and food discovery tour

  1. Mary @ Green Global Travel January 15, 2015 at 12:07 pm #

    We loved the food in Greece! Thanks for bringing back such tasty memories.

  2. Lillie January 14, 2015 at 5:06 pm #

    I love how you captured the MOMENTS that make food exciting: The smoke as it cooks on the grill… the faces… the colors… Well done!

  3. Larissa January 10, 2015 at 6:32 am #

    You have just described my IDEAL TRAVEL DAY! I love visiting local markets wherever I travel. I have not yet made it to Greece, but will definitely put Thessaloniki on my list!

    • Noel January 10, 2015 at 8:47 am #

      When you combined ancient wonders, good cuisine and beautiful landscape, Thessaloniki is definitely a worthwhile spot to visit in Greece.

  4. tawanna January 9, 2015 at 4:38 pm #

    I didn’t make it to Thessaloniki but it was on my list. Gorgeous pics and I’d say all the food I had in Greece was pretty spot on.

  5. Cat of Sunshine and Siestas January 9, 2015 at 5:18 am #

    I grew up next to a Greek family and often kick myself for not learning more about the cuisine. YUM.

  6. Jennifer January 8, 2015 at 11:13 am #

    Oh God, those photos are amazing. How long were you in Thessaloniki?

    • Noel January 8, 2015 at 2:50 pm #

      Only 4 days, but enough time to sample some amazing cuisine in this wonderful city

  7. Elle | Spain Buddy January 5, 2015 at 7:06 am #

    I love food markets and I can almost smell that souvlaki.
    Great pics!
    Elle x

  8. Travelogged January 4, 2015 at 5:48 pm #

    Love Greek food. Haven’t made it to this part of Greece yet… There is some good Greek food in NYC, luckily for me!

  9. Penny January 3, 2015 at 3:12 pm #

    I agree that visiting local markets is one of the best ways to become immersed in local culture. In many locations, they are the heart and soul of the community, and the people you meet are even more fascinating than the goods in the stalls. Your description of the Thessaloniki market makes me want to experience it for myself some day.

  10. Paul (@luxury__travel) January 1, 2015 at 2:13 pm #

    I’m intrigued by the cheese ‘spiral’ in the picture… is that one mozzarella then? I’ve never seen it like that before.

    Also love your first shot of the meat market. Reminds me of my trip to Athens earlier this year.

    Paul

    • Noel January 2, 2015 at 7:57 am #

      Yes the Mozzarella is sold string form, spiral for easier take out

  11. Shikha (whywasteannualleave) January 1, 2015 at 8:58 am #

    I absolutey love trying local foods on my travels especially at markets and already have a big weakness for Greek food so this would have been a foodie heaven for me! The souvlaki sounds so good )

  12. Kathryn Burrington January 1, 2015 at 3:13 am #

    It all sounds wonderful. I would love to do this tour one day. I adore Greek food from the stuffed vine leaves to slow cooked lamb – delicious! Your photos have made me very hungry.

  13. anna parker December 31, 2014 at 9:07 am #

    What you have found here is particularly charming as it doesn’t look in the slightest like it is for the tourists – like Athens or Venice markets might be. It looks like a local haunt and all the better for it! I love baklava – haven’t eaten it for a long while as it is full of butter, but my tummy rumbled seeing the photos!!

  14. Heather Cowper December 31, 2014 at 7:24 am #

    Yummy, this reminds me of the food tour I did in Athens, right down to those whole carcasses hanging in the meat section – everything seems a bit raw in Greece.

  15. The Travel Fool December 31, 2014 at 7:05 am #

    That’s a great Market. I loved visiting there. I always go to the markets, one because of the great food but more importantly that is where you really connect with the people and culture.

    • Noel December 31, 2014 at 7:21 am #

      Yes, I think you are spot on – being able to connect to the people and culture makes it a real experience.

  16. Muza-chan December 31, 2014 at 6:19 am #

    Delicious food 🙂 Happy New Year!

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